Hundreds of US Levees Decrepit, Dangerous

Army Corps of Engineers finds trouble in survey of system

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 17, 2013 8:06 AM CST

(Newser) – Apparently Hurricane Katrina wasn't enough to make America fix its levee system. Seven years after that disaster, hundreds of America's levees are poised to fail, the AP reports, based on an early look at the US Army Corps of Engineers' first ever inventory of the nationwide flood control system. So far, the Corps has only checked 1,451 of the nation's 2,487 levees, but of those, only 121 were deemed fully acceptable, while 1,004 were merely "minimally acceptable" and 326 were in dire need of repair.

Local governments are responsible for maintaining the levees, and some say they can't afford it. "It's just not right to tell a little town like this to spend millions of dollars that we can't raise," says one mayor—though plenty of big cities, like Washington, DC, Cleveland, and Dallas, are also on the naughty list. Others say the Corps is exaggerating the problems, noting that their systems held up to 2011's near-record flooding. But in many cases, Corps officials counter, it took heroic efforts to shore up ancient, crumbling structures. "That is not acceptable performance," one official says.

In this May 19, 2011 file photo, a row of flooded farm homes are pictured near Yazoo City, Miss.   (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)
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This is going to be a national problem and it just hasn't dawned on people how big it's going to be. We're in a never-ending cycle of flood and rebuild. - Jeffrey Mount, levee management specialist and founder of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis

Since Katrina, they're almost hyper-vigilant. It's almost like they're remedying their mistakes from the past by putting the onus on us to make sure things get better. - John Sachi, city engineer for South St. Paul

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